I’ve been procrastinating returning to writing pretty hardcore since I got home. I also knew that I would need to ease myself back in, and I didn’t think that getting to work on this entry would be the way to do that. Instead, I wrote about four different cover letters and, well, now here we are. It’s time to dive into the blog post I’ve been dreading to write for the last five years. The post that’s supposed to put what drum corps has meant to me into roughly 1,000 words. I doubt we’re going to make it…but if there’s anything that drum corps has taught me, it’s that I’ll do my best. And most of the time, that’s enough.
Because how do you capture something that has made you who you are? Something that has taken you in and ground you up and spits you back out put together completely different? Something that breaks you down to a point where it seems like the only way to make you feel whole again is to leave, but a few moments later reminds you that you really only appreciate the highest of highs if you experience the lowest of lows? Something that makes you simultaneously cry and laugh and soar and crash and smile and groan and yell and want to hug everyone while also kicking a tree? Something that has pushed you beyond your limits so many times that right when you think you’ve seen it all, it gives you yet another thing to push through? Something that is everything one moment, and just a memory the next?
Because that’s partially what drum corps has been to me. It has been my everything. My escape, my rock, and my headache. Yeah, the real world sucks, but drum corps can suck too. You’re working for 16 hours a day, seven days a week, on an 11.5 minute show. Sometimes the twirls change on a show day from up-down-up-down-up to up-up-down-down-up-down, and if you forget that clarification, you might get reamed for a half hour. Sometimes you dread ensemble because it’s hot, and sometimes you look forward to it because that’s the longest time of day that you get to spend with your entire family. The whole group of people who were crazy (maybe stupid) enough to sign up to sleep on a deflating air mattress in a freezing gym in a high school in a sketchy part of whatever state you’re in for three months. Crazy enough to eat out of a food truck while sitting on their one-gallon water jug to avoid sitting on ant hills. Crazy enough to shower together, pop each other’s back pimples, and get way too excited about having a Wendy’s a half mile from the show site.
Drum corps is special because there is a time limit. They do make you stop doing this high-level band at some point, and for me, that point was this summer. Even though I got an extra year, I still want more. Already, I would give anything to be under the instruction of an ensemble. I’d give anything to rep the top of the show to 27 again. Anything to do a production run of act three. Anything to run the party section in act five, or seriously chunk act six and nothing but act six before the full run for the day.
Gosh, anything to be a member of the Spirit of Atlanta for just another day.
That’s the other thing. I know that my experience wouldn’t have meant as much for me if I hadn’t done it at Spirit. I wouldn’t have grown as close to the people I marched with, or felt like a part of the Alumni Association the moment I aged out if I hadn’t stuck at Spirit. Or learned what EPICA is and applied it to my life, had a necklace that’s really heavy to wear when times get tough, or really connected with the people I can’t imagine my life without. I probably could have made a top 12 corps, but I would rather have enjoyed [almost] every second of my summer than getting a guaranteed extra performance on Saturday night.
The other thing I would do every summer that I’m glad about already is journaling the “things I’d like to remember” religiously every day. Sometimes it was quotes, sometimes things that happened that I couldn’t stop laughing about, sometimes compliments I’d get from the staff, and sometimes what I’ll call “life moments.” I would apply for jobs and internships and interview over the phone on tour (none of which I’ve gotten, so far), or meet people who would get me through the real world even from hundreds of miles away, all up until we would get to be together again at our little slice of heaven for three months before returning back to what we had to do in reality for nine.
I think that’s one of the hardest things. This time, I really don’t know when I’m going to get to see the people I love so much again. I definitely won’t get to spend an extended period of time with most of them ever again, and I’m terrified that I won’t see most of them for a long time coming.
Drum corps is more than just marching band. It’s an activity that you choose to be a part of, but it decides how it’s going to change you. It gave me work ethic, taught me the importance of budgeting, forced me to grow up and experience things that weren’t attainable in small-town Northern Minnesota, showed me that my background is one of the things I should be the proudest of, and taught me how to be humble and to appreciate/learn from every chance I’m given. It also showed me my desire to continually improve, and always get better. More people dream of doing this activity than actually do it — even less do it for as long as I got to — and I wouldn’t trade one second of it (even the wall days or the fifteen minutes I spent crying on the bus on the way to the last Atlanta regional this past summer or the heartache of missing something important at home) for anything in the world.
Because, (to try and wrap this up), nothing compares to performing with 76 horns and a battery behind you in front of a crowd cheering for you to do your best. Nothing beats the feeling of coming off the field after hitting every checkpoint, living through every emotion that’s been beaten into you for the last 77 days, and then walking into a circle full of smiles and tears and heavy breathing because of every moment leading to that one. I’ll never forget leaving the tunnel of Lucas Oil on August 11th after our Semifinals run this year. It was then that it was finally all over. I wouldn’t perform in DCI again, and I had ended on the absolute best note I could have ever asked for.
My dad was able to capture my final moments of rehearsal that day, too. I still can’t believe I’ve gotten to be a part of Spirit of Atlanta Drum & Bugle corps for so long, and that I am now a member of the SOAAA. I never thought when I was an alternate in 2013 just how far it would take me — but I’m sure glad it did. You’ll always be home to me, Spirit. Thanks for a truly incredible and life-changing experience.